Man using earplugs to protect his hearing before a concert.

Earplugs can be practical if you’re exposed to loud sounds, such as for example, something as straightforward as a spouse who is snoring, or a lawnmower in your backyard, or going to a concert at an arena. Turning down the volume is the way earplugs can help in the first two situations. In the last situation, they reduced the decibels and help protect your sanity (and maybe your relationships) by allowing you to get a good night’s sleep. But are your ears being injured by these protectors?

What’s The Point of Wearing Earplugs?

The case for earplugs is pretty simple: When used properly, earplugs can help safeguard your hearing by minimizing your exposure to extreme decibel levels. When you leave a loud venue, say a football game where the announcer keeps telling the crowd to, GET LOUD, every time the other team kicks off, you’ve probably noticed that your hearing seems different, and you may also have symptoms of tinnitus. Those little hairs are bent by this type of noise exposure and that’s why this happens. It commonly vanishes within a couple of days, because the hair cells have recovered.

But if you’re exposed to extreme decibels frequently, for example, if you work on a construction crew or at an airport, the audio assault on those tiny hair cells is constant. Instead of recovering after bending, the cells are permanently compromised. There are about 16,000 of those little cells inside each cochlea, but up to 50% of them can be destroyed or at least injured before you would see the change in a hearing test.

Is it Possible That Your Hearing Could be Damaged by Earplugs?

That being said, you’d think that using earplugs would be a no-brainer in terms of protecting your hearing. But if your subjected to loud noises on a day to day basis, this seems even more obvious (like on the job or with the previously mentioned snoring partner), headphones that decrease, but don’t totally cancel, sound or over the head earmuffs are a much smarter choice. Earplugs are better suited to one-off situations like a sporting event or concert than for day to day use.

Why? For one, earwax. Your ears produce wax to protect themselves, and if you’re frequently wearing earplugs, more earwax will be created, and the earplugs will jam it in further. Tinnitus and other complications can be the result of impacted earwax.

An ear infection can also result from too much use of earplugs. If you repeatedly use the same pair, and you don’t clean them properly from use to use, they can become bacteria traps. Certainly, ear infections are a disruption to your life. But at the worst-case-scenario end of the spectrum, they can also result in hearing loss if you fail to get treatment.

How Can You Make Use of Earplugs Safely?

Whether it’s a restful night sleep or safeguarding your hearing, there’s still a strong benefit to using earplugs. You just need to be certain you’re using the right kind and utilizing them in the proper way. Foam earplugs are the least costly, which is good because you really should not use them more than once, the cushy, porous material is a germ’s paradise. Don’t put wax or silicone earplugs back in until they are totally dry after utilizing warm water to completely sanitize them. It’s also a good idea to keep earplugs in a ventilated place to discourage moisture, or worse, mold or bacteria, from accumulating.

You might want to speak with us concerning custom fit earplugs if you want or need them regularly. These are constructed from unique molds of your ears, they’re reusable and because they’re fitted to your ears, their comfortable. Again though, to stop any potential hearing damage, it’s crucial to practice good earplug hygiene!

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